Sunday, August 25, 2013

Women's Equality Day Challenges

The celebration of Women’s Equality Day in the U.S. tomorrow comes with a special urgency this year, 2013. Women’s rights are under attack, especially from the right wing of the Republican party, with their so-called reasoning often based in religious doctrine.

The U.S. has been marking Women’s Equality Day since 1971 when, at the urging of the late Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), a Congressional and then Presidential proclamation was issued designating Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 that gave women the right to vote. The Day's purpose is also to continue a focus on women’s issues. Every President since 1971 has issued a Women’s Equality Day proclamation,  including this year’s proclamation by President Obama.

 On this Women’s Equality Day, both the right to vote and women’s health care are among the issues backtracking to what seems to me like the middle ages, but is probably more accurately the early 20th century for voting and the mid-20th century for health care. In the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act, Republican-led State actions, such as curbing voting hours and requiring photo IDS, impact not only minorities and university students but also women. In addition—and more specific in its aim—health care for women is increasingly imperiled by a growing number of laws in a growing number of States aiming to get around the 1973 Roe v.Wade SCOTUS legalization of abortion. Among other things, these State actions set up impossible-to-meet requirements that result in the closing clinics which include safe and legal abortion in the health care they provide to women. The anti-abortion advocates often give biblical scripture as source for their sometimes violent actions, and for the imposition of tests such as transvaginal ultrasound, which, when performed without the patient’s consent as these proposals require, fits the definition of rape. In general, this maltreatment of women can be seen as an outcome of the interpretations and doctrines particularly in fundamentalist religions that give men dominion over women, and insist on speaking of deity in masculine/male-only language. The impact of fundamentalist religion has caused a backtracking on a trend to more egalitarian language in public prayer and references to deity. For example, I don’t remember ever hearing William Jefferson Clinton, while president, referring to deity by gender. He used the term God, but did not combine it with “he” or “Lord” or any other gendered term. This is not true of President Obama, whom I have heard use masculine pronouns when speaking of deity when he could have easily just left off the pronouns. Others seem to be following the President's example. Yesterday, in the speeches at the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights, in the prayers I heard, all god-language was male/masculine, including prayers by women. This use of exclusively masculine-gendered words for deity reinforces, empowers, enables the ongoing political actions imperiling women’s rights.

The backtracking-on-women’s-issues trend has made its way into parts of the Pagan community. A number Pagans, both women and men, use the supposedly generic term “gods” when referring to both male and female deities. Pagans can’t even make the argument that these deities are ungendered as those in Abrahamic religion try to do when they use the word God (followed by “He.”) When you use “gods” to include female deities, it disappears the female deities; a god in Paganism is widely understood to be male. This is just one of the ways that fundamentalism or right-wing thinking is influencing Pagan thought and practices among some Pagans—and again, I’m not just talking about men. I think, for the most part, this is not intentional, it is just that we are influenced by the dominant culture we live in and unconsciously adopt its practices and sometimes beliefs, though they may be somewhat disguised so that the bias is not easily recognized. It is, however, easily remedied (and I know you want to remedy this, right?) by using “gods and goddesses” alternating with “goddesses and gods”; or, when writing, god/dess; or using inclusive terms such as deities and divinities.

This Women’s Equality Day, let’s see if we can become conscious of practices in our communities that go counter to equal treatment of women. Maybe we can call it Pagan consciousness-raising—a first step to restored equality.

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At Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:38:00 PM, Blogger Barbara Rogers said...

Yes...I'll be putting this blog linked from mine tomorrow!


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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.